Phit Phonetics for Phavorite Hybrids
Milton Wildfong, Mission, B.C. Canada
Inspection of the International Rhododendron Register, including the annual updates since the original Register was published, reveals an astonishing array of names bestowed upon rhododendrons. The list is much longer and more varied than most would ever suspect. Skipping the best known and most widely grown hybrids such as 'Elizabeth', 'Cynthia', 'Blue Peter', and 'Pink Pearl', let us seek out the un-commonplace; names, which as we shall see, range from unusual to fascinating, to positively bizarre! Lifted from their alphabetically arranged context these can be grouped in some quite interesting combinations. All in fun, but if it suggests some useful ideas, so much the better.
As a starter perhaps it will be helpful to get into the right spirit (or vintage.) 'Bourbon Supreme', 'Old Port', 'Red Rum', 'Burgundy', 'Claret', 'Madeira', 'Champagne', and for hot weather, 'July Julep'. Perfectly respectable names and the hybrids which bear them, we may add, always manage to stay upright even when heavily loaded! Could the following authors do likewise? One has doubts. 'Mark Twain', 'Victor Hugo', 'Charles Dickens', 'Voltaire'. As for 'Sir Walter Scott' and 'Homer' some historian might know more about their habits than I. Among the political figures, 'Winston Churchill' would seem happily placed but 'W.E. Gladstone' we are given to understand would frown up a thunderstorm and sidle over to 'Temperance Rose' to denounce the whole affair. And how would 'Uncle Sam' and 'John Bull' comport themselves?
Such an occasion must surely call for music and many of the great masters have been honored - 'Johann Sebastian Bach', 'Beethoven', 'Schubert', 'Chopin', and the incomparable 'Mozart'. Even 'Nero' has not been overlooked although whether it was for his fiddle playing or his ability to stand the heat, we don't know. There's a 'Minstrel' to sing a rather doleful 'Madrigal' for anyone feeling a touch blue, but 'Victor Herbert' and 'Johann Straus' are there to provide 'Waltz Time' or a peppy 'Tango', 'Fandango', 'Minuet', or 'Calypso'. 'Verdi' and 'Dame Nellie Melba' along with 'Figaro', the 'Barber of Seville', are included for those who vibrate their tonsils with vocals. 'Carmen' might give a rendition of 'Peggy O'Neil' or 'Chloe' as her 'Swansong'. Followed by 'Applause'.
Artists, who are generally considered a rather racy lot, are represented by such as 'Degas', 'Rubens', 'Van Dyke', 'Rembrandt', 'Tintoretto', and 'Vincent Van Gogh'. Even they would be astonished to see rhododendrons in 'Sunday Best' wearing apparel. 'Red Slippers', 'Golden Slippers', 'Silver Slippers', 'Straw Hat', 'Silk Cap', 'Fez', 'Chapeau', and 'Fedora' are there. And also 'Pink Petticoats' with 'Pink Ruffles' made of 'Crinoline' and 'Taffeta'. What a 'Hullabaloo'! Quite sufficient to bestir the insect world with 'Firefly', 'Gypsy Moth', 'Snugbug', 'Glow Worm', 'Dragonfly', and 'Jiminy Cricket' all getting into the act. 'Butterfly' would do a 'Butterfly Dance'. But if 'Yellow Jacket' comes along, look out!
Feathered, furry, finny and scaly friends have not been overlooked either. More than fifty species of birds have had their names used and 'Pretty Polly' can recite many of them - 'Canary', 'Curlew', 'Blue Jay', 'Hummingbird', and 'Albatross' are among the best known. There is also 'Penguin', 'Sandpiper', 'Bobolink', 'Towhee', 'Skylark', 'Golden Pheasant', and with something to crow about - 'Chanticleer'. There's a round robin choice between 'Ragged Robin', 'Red Robin', and 'Robin Redbreast'. The furies include 'Baby Mouse' a possible offspring of 'Dormouse' and both a 'Red Cat' and 'Alley Cat'. 'Polar Bear' is the biggest bundle, but 'Yellow Wolf' along with 'Snow Leopard', 'Tiger', 'Ocelot', and a 'Pink Panther' are all eyeing 'Running Deer' and 'Zebra', hungrily, 'Impala'' 'Oryx', 'Ibex' and 'Springbok' may well survive as named rhododendrons after the ungulates themselves are extinct. Guess where 'Rover', 'Red Fox', 'Rosy Fido', and 'Bulldog' originated? The ocean deep, fresh water and terra firma combine to provide both a 'Mermaid' and a 'Pink Mermaid', plus 'Prawn', 'Abalone', 'Octopus', 'Starfish', 'Salmon Trout',' 'Grilse', and 'Adder' and 'The Lizard'. There is also a 'Dragon' to edify our imagination. Being thusly close to nature, 'Paleface' must not overlook the first North Americans and so 'Papoose', 'Hiawatha', 'Umpqua Chief', and the great 'Tecumseh' are all represented. Also 'Chief Joseph' and 'Captain Jack', the skull of the latter still residing in a glass display case at the Smithsonian, last I heard. There are more - enough for a real 'Pow Wow' and 'War Dance'.
A very high proportion of rhododendrons have been named after people. Many of the species appropriately bear the names of plant explorers and assorted collaborators. Forrest (forrestii), Ward (wardii), Sherriff (sherriffii), McCabe (macabeanum). 'Miss Jekyll' the very special landscaper is honored and there is a circumspect 'Miss Mercy Grogan'. The prefix 'Mrs.' appears almost six times as frequently as 'Mr.' and runs three to one in favor of the non-azalea part of the genus. Only one 'Mr.' does not apply to an azalea. 'Mrs. Gwendoline Broderick', alias 'Lady Gwendoline Broderick', sounds very classy as does 'Mrs. W.T. Thistleton-Dyer', sometimes known as just 'Mrs. Thistleton Dyer'.
There is a lot of pink around including a 'Pink Lady Roseberry'. Lurking nearby? You guessed it - 'Peeping Tom'.
The Royals get an awful lot of attention. 'Queen Elizabeth II', 'The Queen Mother', and 'Princess Anne' are the current ones honored. There are kings, of whom 'King Tut' holds a special status but others include 'Albert', 'Edward VII', 'George', 'Leopold', even 'King Lear'. And the 'Empress Eugenie'. There are two named Emperors; one plain Emperor; plus a Red one and a Purple one. 'Prince Chichibu' sounds cute and 'Exalted Ruler' sounds - well - exalting? 'Prince Charming' being the jealous type, watches with 'Green Eyes' as 'Radiant Knight' appears on the scene. Add a 'Sultan', 'Czarina', 'Czar Alexander III', 'Kaiser' and 'Kaiserin', 'Royal Mail, and 'Sealing Wax' and you could have a plot for an Agatha Christie mystery.
There is a sufficiency of Lords; twice as many Madams as Ladies; few Duchesses; and even fewer Countesses and Marchionesses. Add the Earls, Barons and Baronesses and the whole assemblage probably includes enough 'Royal Blood' for 'Coronation Day'. 'Black Prince' would be at hand with his 'Black Prince's Ruby', not the same gem as 'Blood Ruby', the latter being a 'Crown Jewel' in a 'Tiara' loaded with 'Sapphire', 'Pink Topaz', 'Opal', 'White Diamond', 'Blue Diamond', and much else.
Such pomp and ostentation calls for the 'Swashbuckler' with some 'Swagger' and for this the military would be on 'Dress Parade' with plenty of 'Goldbraid' and the 'Drum Major' with his 'Kettledrum'. Along with two Majors and five Admirals, there would be two dozen or more Generals; from long past 'Tamerlane' and 'Julius Caesar'; of more recent times there are 'General Eisenhower' and 'Timoshenko'. 'General Sir John du Cane' is not well remembered but the clone which bears his name (discolor x thomsonii) is a very fine one indeed. 'Florence Nightingale' is remembered and of course there is 'Flanders Field'. 'Mistake', registered by a 'Brigadier', leads one to hope no lives were lost!
A sprinkling of eminent personages, scholars and professional people are represented by rhododendrons. There is 'Lindberg' (also a 'Lone Eagle'), 'Socrates', 'Thomas Edison', 'Sir Isaac Newton', and 'Charles Darwin'. Also 'Robert Fortune'. Skimpy use has been made of movie stars. Four differing clones bear the name 'Maiden's Blush' but there is no Mae West. There are modest groupings of professors and doctors, including one 'General Practitioner'. And there is only one chef.
Sociological overtones do seem to keep popping up. There is 'Sweetie Pie' and 'Better Half'. Then there is 'Frigid', 'Battle Axe', and 'Flag of Truce'! The 'Bouncer' is described as crimson scarlet with dark eye. 'You Beaut' is not the same clone! With a 'Busybody' around no wonder there is 'Furore' over 'Youthful Sin' and a 'Blessed Event'. There is also 'Amazement' and some raised eyebrows over 'Lady Love' and that 'Flatterer', 'Lovely William' and their 'Pink Twins'. 'Seduction' it is claimed! Watch out if 'Legal Johnnie' teams up with 'Mountebank', and when you deal with 'Rascal' make sure it's 'C.O.D.' If 'Sugar Daddy' discards his 'Canadian Beauty' for 'Highland Mary' who is described as delicate blush with orange spots, he must be soft in the head. Far better to take up with 'Viking Lady' or even 'Shrimp Girl'. 'Lemon Bill' and 'Lemonora' seem to add up to a sour pair but 'Chatterbox' and 'Butterball' sound like they would be nice to know.
When we find a 'Full House', 'Royal Flush' and 'Joker' being bandied about, there is a suspicion of what goes on and with 'Twenty Grand' involved, count me out! Better to go look up partners for a game of 'Canasta' or bounce my 'Yo Yo'. It 'Frazzles' one to visualize what 'Ping Pong' and 'Lucky Strike' and 'Bulls-eye' would look like planted together.
Could fairy tale characters be overlooked in the naming of rhododendrons? Of course not. There is 'Pandora', and 'Tom Thumb', 'Goldilocks', 'Cinderella' and 'Red Riding Hood'. Naturally 'Snow White' with 'Sneezy', 'Dopey', 'Grumpy', and 'Bashful' are there. Plus 'Tinker Bell.' And for a touch of mystery - both 'Sinbad' and 'Aladdin'.
Far away places have a special appeal and so we find 'Zanzibar', 'Antigua', 'Morocco', 'Kashmir', 'Katanga', and the 'Middle East,. Exotic cities abound: 'Bagdad', 'Istanbul', 'Singapore', 'Peking', 'Shanghai', 'Bangkok', 'Calcutta', 'Moscow', 'Kiev', 'Cairo', and of course 'Paris' and 'London.' Perhaps 'Esperanza' would be helpful if you plan to visit all these places.
Even farther afield we have the planets and the stars. The names of 'Pluto', 'Mars', 'Jupiter', 'Venus', 'Orion', 'Sagittarius', and 'Perseus' have been used. There is a 'Meteor' to liven things up and the 'Silver Moon' provides enough forms of 'Moonshine', 'Moonlight', and 'Moonbeams' to leave one 'Starry Eyed' from 'Stardust' after peering at the ,'Twinkles' of the 'Galaxy.' A great assortment of mythical gods also abound: 'Vulcan', 'Apollo', 'Aphrodite' and also 'Darling of the Gods'. Who could that be? 'Atlas' still carries his burden and 'Lucifer' is described as bright scarlet and no doubt is up to deviltry.
All seasons are accounted for. 'Springtime' brings forth 'Spring Beauty', a 'Spring Song', and 'Spring Frolic' which might occur in belated 'Spring Snow'. There is nothing like a 'Whirlwind' of 'Summer Scandal' under the 'Summer Sun'. 'Autumn Gold' in the 'Autumn Sunset' sounds lovely. Winter brings not just a 'Snowfall' or a 'Snowstorm', but a 'Blizzard' which includes plenty of 'Driven Snow' which adds up to immense 'Snowdrift'. 'Snow Lady', 'Snow Sprite', 'Snow Queen' and even 'Snow Bunting' are all well 'Snowclad'. Many a 'Snowball' will be thrown including a few made from 'Pink Snowflakes'.
Such weather calls for nourishing food but the 'Epicure' in this case has a decidedly sweet tooth. Pity poor 'Chef de Meyere' who alone must prepare the fare with a little assist from a 'Biscuit Boy' and a 'Dairymaid.' Except for 'Cream Crackers' with 'Cream Cheese' a touch of 'Mustard' and some 'Ripe Corn,' most everything else is of a dessert nature. There is 'Ice Cream', including 'Vanilla', there is 'Cherry Vanilla', 'Custard', 'Devonshire Cream', and a 'Cherry Float'. A dash of 'Nutmeg' or 'Ginger' can be had should one so wish. There is 'Apple Dumpling' with 'Caramel' and a 'Little Pudding' which is as heavy as 'Alabaster'. No after dinner mints - only 'Peppermint Stick' to nibble on.
Whoever would think of disguising rhododendrons as other genera? Well, quite a lot of people obviously. Hiding under the names of 'Crabapple', 'Peaches', 'Peach Fuzz', 'Apricot', 'Persimmon', 'Nectarine' and 'Orange Peel', guess what? Rhododendrons! Some of these do sound 'Yum-Yum'. There are also hybrids named 'Mimulus', 'Daisy', 'Poppy', 'Snowdrop', 'Edelweiss', 'Camelia Alba', 'Lilac Time', 'Narcissus', 'Daphne', both 'Cattleya' and 'Orchid Beauty', 'Magnolia Alba', and 'Mountain Laurel'. Such an array calls for a breath of fresh air and those who would climb 'Everest' or 'Kilimanjaro' or 'Mount Hood', 'Mount Blanc' or 'Mount Fuji' might find the purest of all. 'Volcano' brings forth 'Lava Flow' and we find 'Krakatoa', 'Hecla', 'Etna' and 'Popacatapetl' are all there. Can Mount St. Helens be far behind?
For those who like 'Ruddigore' there are both 'Vampire' and 'Dracula' to meet their needs. A fitting compatriot is 'Jack the Ripper'. A more recent creep is 'Goldfinger', eager to try his hand at some 'Witchery.'
'Dalbull', 'Fargsutch', 'Smirhaem', 'Lindbull', 'Morfar', 'Orbwill'. What strange words are these? Actually they arise from simply combining a portion of the names of each of the two parents of offspring. It is practical as a knowledgeable rhododendron fancier can usually readily decipher the parental antecedence. Thus 'Dalbull' translates to (bullatum x dalhousiae), 'Fargsutch' (fargesii x sutchuenense) and 'Smirhaem' (smirnowii x haematodes). That's the first three. Of the last three, 'Morfar' always sounds like a case of very bad grammar, but I leave it to you to untangle the paternity. Interestingly enough, hybrid seedlings of yakushimanum x bullatum, originating here, bear the identifying labels 'Yak-Bull' so you see the habit is catching. Now if this system was applied to the naming of human offspring - but perhaps we better not go into that. 'Zero' does seem to be a minus quantity for a name and 'Monstrous' doesn't sound likely to ever be a best seller. But 'Eureka' if this parade of names helps anyone come up with an appropriate moniker for their new creation. Should you be seized with the inspiration that the name for your new about to be registered hybrid darling shall permanently be in that conspicuous very last spot in the Register, forget it. The phical perfidy of phate placed 'ZYXYA' there in 1967. And many more of the same to you!